Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sweet Seasons / July 2008 - Floating Leaves -

Floating Leaves by Nishigawaya

It is no surprise that cool stream is a popular wagashi motif in hot and humid Japanese summer. Especially for the tea ceremony in olden days when there was no air conditioner, wagashi confectioners must have done their best to bring in a touch of coolness with their wagashi which usually accompanies hot (or at least warm) green tea. And the summer motif has been passed down for more than a hundred years and is still favored today.

For this type of wagashi, azuki bean paste is often used for the river bottom and kanten jelly for the water. And confectioners often add something of their choice -- such as leaves, small fish, pebbles, bubbles, etc. -- as an accent. I wasn't sure what these leaves in the above wagashi photos were made of, but I did love the color gradation. :)

BTW, they usually try not to leave tiny bubbles in kanten jelly wagashi, but I suppose they included the bubbles on purpose in this case. It looks like that the leaves are in a real water, and thus looks more refreshing.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Suntanned Nectarine Cobbler?

Nectarine Cobbler -- believe it or not...

No, it's not suntan or cocoa powder added to the batter. What I actually did was that I ran out of flour the other day but forgot to buy some, so for this cobbler I used the whole wheat flour I managed to find in my kitchen.

Don't you think this looks terribly brown and gooey? But it tasted better than it looks, and even quite nice with ice cream on top. And more than anything, the color contrast of this brown cobbler and white vanilla ice cream was really nice and appetizing. (Too bad I didn't take a photo of the one with ice cream topping...)

Oh, for those who may be wondering: It's my summer ritual to make nectarine cobbler at least once a summer. As I wrote before, nectarines are usually available only for a couple of weeks in late July or early August around here, and in those weeks, making nectarine cobbler has more priority than other projects. ;)


Friday, July 25, 2008

Blueberry Ice Cream - Test Batch -

Prototype #1

It wasn't my day off yesterday, but I went for the experiment. Yes, I tried out a blueberry ice cream recipe. I got the basic idea from the recipe Kat gave me, and combined it with another recipe(Japanese) which I found on the net. The latter was actually a "blueberry cream cheese ice cream" recipe, and I was so curious about how cream cheese would work.

The result: It was good. But the cream cheese was a bit overpowering, I would say. To bring out the best flavor of my precious and scarce blueberries, I would rather not use cream cheese.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Talking about Tempura...

Guess what. My tempura photo from my kaiseki post (2006 Autumn) is now used in a splash screen of a free software. Check this out!

To me this was a kind of flattering experience. According to this guy -- a Man in the TERRA as he calls himself-- he had been wanting to use a tempura photo for the software he made recently. He did some net search, found my tempura photo and liked it. Maybe fate played a part in this?

Anyway, when I got his email asking for permission to use the photo as a splash image, first I thought it was some kind of joke. But he was very polite, considerate and copyright-conscious all the way through, and I liked the idea of my photo being used for something useful (it's not that my photos are not useful as they are posted on this foodblog, but you know what I mean...), I finally said to myself, "Oh, why not!" :D

From now, even those who have no interest in tempura per se would have to be forced to see my tempura photo for several seconds every time they load this free software. Ha-ha-ha. (There seems to be something that flatters my ego here... ) ;)


Sunday, July 20, 2008

TLA #3 - First Kiss?? -

Kisu (Sillago) Tempura

Hahaha... Come on. I’m over 40 y.o., not a teenager. You didn't think that I had my true “first kiss” today, did you? Nope. It’s a fish called “kisu (sillago or smelt-whiting?)” and the name is pronounced the same as “kiss” in Japanese (with a little different accent). What I did today was that I made tempura with the very first kisu I caught in my life! :D

Kisu is not terribly big or prestigious, but so many people are crazy about them here because catching them is fun (they pull pretty hard for their size) and they taste so good. The fresh ones are great when sliced raw as sashimi and wonderful when used for sushi, but they are simply EXCELLENT when batter-fried with shiso(perilla) leaves! So, ever since I took up fishing a few months back, I had dreamed about making tempura with the fresh kisu I caught.

Yes, I had made tempura with store-bought kisu several times before and I knew its taste. But making it with my own catch is the special part, you know. I really want to experience the “pull” that so many anglers talk/write about. And catching kisu is not like catching sardines in a dirty port. You go to a clean beach and will be surrounded by the sound of the wave. And you throw weight and bait towards the beautiful horizon where the blue ocean and the sky meet. When you do catch some, they are fresh from the Pacific Ocean -- hence, no worry about the pollution. Mmmmm… I like that. I like that very much. That’s the kind of fun I want to have in summer -- or in any season, if possible!

Around 5 AM, near Katsurahama beach

But in this summer heat, I can never fish around and after noon. So my fishing trip has to be early in the morning on my day off, and to be at the beach in time, I have to leave home TERRIBLY early in the morning. Hahaha… BTW, I had my bicycle repaired so it doesn't wake up the whole neighborhood with its squeak any more. ;) The shot above is the one I took this morning when I came near the beach.

And this shot is for those who missed the sunrise today. It was gorgeous. I guess it is an early-bird angler’s privilege to be able to enjoy a view like this.

To be honest, this photo above is from my last fishing trip. This blue rod is the one I broke a week ago before it caught any kisu. Now I have an orange-colored fishing rod which is a little longer than this blue one.

Finally!! (The fish is not floating in the air.
Kinda surrealistic photo, isn't it?)

Oh how I wanted to take a shot like this! (I mean, taking a shot of kisu still hanging from the line. So many people took photos of their kisu this way and posted on their websites, and I wanted to do the same so badly.)

I caught but released several fish that I didn’t want to keep, and these were the only two I brought back home after all. I know. What a meager catch for all the efforts and preparations and crazy, long bicycle ride! But the important thing is -- I enjoyed all the craziness and my small dream actually came true! And that is much, MUCH better than spending the whole day off in my messy room, thinking that I'm too old to have any fun.

OK. The next step is catching enough kisu to make both kisu sashimi and tempura, and posting about them to add to my long-forgotten “sake to sakana” series. There is a sake I have in mind to try with those dishes. :)

... And my blueberry ice cream project is postponed till my next day off. :P

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ginger Pineapple Sorbet

Ginger Pineapple Sorbet adapted from Sam Choy's Sampler

I tried out the ice cream recipe that Kat kindly shared in her comment to my blueberry post. Yeah, like she said, it was more like ice cream than sorbet. I loved it! :D (But if the ginger flavor was stronger than this, I would have preferred more sorbet-like texture.)

So, the next step is adapting this recipe for my blueberries. Mmmm... it'll probably be a major project for this weekend. Oh boy! The number of my precious blueberries is limited. I can't afford to fail. Maybe I should buy some frozen blueberries and make test batches beforehand?

P.S. Thank you so much, Kat.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Homemade Popcorn with Nutritional Yeast!

Yes. Nothing is impossible. I thought that, living in this rural place, I would never be able to get nutritional yeast. But thanks to Carolie who sent me two jars of it -- as well as many other goodies --, now I'm enjoying the afternoon munching on homemade popcorn sprinkled with generous amount of nutritional yeast (and salt, of course ;))

Yeah, this does taste like cheese. Yum!

Ah... Homemade popcorn. It reminds me of the fun times I had when I was younger... like my first slumber party(?) in the U.S., winter vacation at my dorm-mate's house, and "video and popcorn nights" (in those days there was no such thing as DVDs. Ahem!) at a friend's place on campus... I had a real love-and-hate relationship with salty and buttery homemade popcorn then. Now I'm older more health-conscious and my choice this time was homemade popcorn with canola, nutritional yeast and a little less salt than I used to use. But I have to admit that munching on popcorn still makes me feel younger ;)


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Garden Report - July 2008 -

My blueberries

Yes, the fertilizer worked. The number of berries is not so impressive this year, but the size of each berry is! I hope the fertilizer improved the taste, too.

So what should I make with twenty to thirty big, ripe and sweet blueberries? Blueberry tart again, maybe?

Sad news. My chervil was looking great in May, but now it's gone -- the heat and plant louses killed it. I'm glad that at least I had a chance to put it on a piece of cake and take some photos (see previous post) .